Japan defence spending has been swelling for seven consecutive years. Besides answering its neighbours’ increased military activities, Japan aims to tackle tariff-impose threat from the US.
Japan defence spending ascends to ¥5.26tn ($47bn) this year, marking the seven consecutive years of its steady hikes. The approved budget is part of a $912bn national spending for the fiscal year starting in April 2019. Over five years, Japan plans to disburse ¥27tn ($240bn) for its defence interest. The annual average of the spending rises to 1.1 percent from 0.8 per cent average under the previous five-year plan. In the last seven years, Japan defence spending has expanded by almost 12 percent. However, the spending is restricted to one per cent of the country’s GDP by the constitution. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly declared his interest to revise the constitution, which receives critics from the Japanese population as response.
Japan defence spending: keeping up with the neighbours
The boost of Japan defence spending comes as an effort to keep up with its neighbours’ military activity. China deployed its J-20 jet fighter in February, urging Japan to procure sophisticated fighter aircrafts immediately. Meanwhile, Japan remains wary of North Korea’s promises to abandon nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
On the other side, US President Donald Trump repeatedly pushes Japan to reduce trade imbalance between Japan and the US, which last year reached $61.2bn. Trump threatened to impose tariffs on Japanese auto imports to cut a trade deficit. Hence, Japan plans to disburse its national spending to buy high-value American-made military equipment.
Japan defence spending for fighters and missiles
Over 80 per cent of total Japan defence spending this year accounted for equipment procurement and personnel expenses. A significant portion of the budget will cover the purchase of various defence equipment from the US, including two Aegis Ashore land-based missile interceptor systems that cost $2.15bn and six F-35A stealth fighter jets. Japan also allocates budget to convert Izumo-class helicopter destroyer into full-pledged aircraft carrier that can launch F-35Bs fighters on board. The ship will be Japan’s first aircraft carrier since the end of World War II. Japan will also bulk up its maritime patrol aircraft fleet with 12 more Kawasaki P-1s.
The Japanese government also wants to deploy long-range missiles that has ability to travel over 300 kilometres and hypersonic missiles with speed five times faster than sound by mid-2020s. Both missiles will carry the task of protecting Japan’s far-flung islands from external threats, says Japan official statement.
By 2024, Japan wants to procure 42 F-35A fighter jets to replace F-4 aircraft. Meanwhile, in the period of ten years, Japan intends to order the additional 105 F-35 stealth fighter jets from the U.S., both F-35A and F-35B, to replace its aging F-15 squadrons. With each F-35 aircraft costs more than ¥10bn and a total deal size exceeding ¥1tn this would be a quick fix to reduce the trade surplus.
Artificial intelligence for Japan’s defence
Besides accommodating equipment purchases, Japan defence spending in the next few years also heavily invests on research and development of tech-based defence system. Japan is directing its resources to develop space and cyber defences, as well as electronic warfare. In the fiscal year 2019, Japan will procure the Space Situational Awareness system and improve the capability of electronic warfare information of the Japan Aerospace Defense Ground Environment.
The Rising Sun country also adds artificial intelligence to its defence capabilities. On its five-year plan, Japan Air Self-Defence Force will acquire maritime surveillance drones and Global Hawk long-distance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). As the number of Japan population shrinks continuously, the country faces combat staff shortage. By strengthening AI capabilities, Japan will promote the use of unmanned or minimally manned equipment to solve the problem.
Countries with leading capacity in military sector, such as the US and Russia, have already developed drones that do many special tasks, including gathering information and help soldiers to make a decision by assessing threat and danger.
In the past, defence-backed research has benefited the private economy. The technology development potentially enhances the medium-term growth rate of the economy and creates value for consumers and industry.
Defence spending helped Japan to get over recession
In addition, Japan defence spending has been helping the country to get over recession period since more than 150 years ago. The defence spending also bailed Japan during the oil crisis in 1970s. As for current date, Japan defence spending will stimulate the manufacturing industry with possible beneficiaries include Mitsubishi, Kawasaki, Toshiba and Daikin.